Many years ago, a good dog savvy friend introduced me to a new dog sport. When she explained the premise of the game, I was hooked and I knew my dogs would love it too. Immediately, I enrolled my dog and myself in a three-day Nose Work camp in the northern mountains of Georgia. It was the most fun I’ve had with my dog in years! So much so I immediately enrolled in next year’s camp with my other dog.
During Nose Work camp, I noticed my dogs were having a complete blast too! The game never got old either; they could hunt for super yummy food placed inside an open box forever. Even better was my dogs being completely exhausted afterwards, and you know a tired dog is a happy dog. It’s tough solving puzzles with your nose. Every dog, and his pet owner, should give Nose Work a try. Your dog will thank you over and over again!
What is Nose Work?
Nose Work taps into a dog’s natural instinct and teaches him or her how to hunt. The founders of Nose Work wanted to take tracking to the next level with a new dog sport focused on scent work. Compiling their years of experience as detection officers and scent work experts, the founders created Nose Work.
How to Set Up the Game
This game requires cardboard boxes, yummy treats and a dog. Pet owners place yummy treats in one box, and then place the food-filled box among several empty boxes. Now, pet owners turn their dogs loose to search each box for treats. Once treats are found, the dog eats the treats right out of the box. Then, the game starts over again.
Nose Work is like solving a puzzle with a wonderful reward at the end. In the beginning, it’s best to move slowly to build a dog’s excitement and skill level to hunt. As dogs progress in hunting, pet owners can make the game a bit more challenging by adding additional boxes to the search area, placing boxes underneath chairs, closing a few box flaps to trap scent or placing boxes on top of chairs.
Popularity of Nose Work
Honestly, the popularity of this dog game has exploded! Due to the overwhelming interest, Nose Work founders have created class curricula, training programs for instructors and competition courses for different skill levels.
As of 2017, there’s a waiting list for dog trainers to complete Nose Work training certification, and an even longer waiting period for enrollment into competitions across the US. It’s very common for most Nose Work competitors to drive 10-15 hours one way just to compete.
Benefits of Nose Work
After attending Nose Work camp, sitting in on numerous dog scent training classes with my dogs and finally teaching Nose Work group classes, I’ve noticed the benefits are unlimited.
The biggest benefit of Nose Work is it builds self-confidence in dogs. Dogs learn how to successfully solve problems, and are rewarded generously for it. Locating food tucked away in the corner of a box that’s placed among 10-15 boxes is quite challenging. Dogs are unable to see the food, so many use their noses to find it.
Each time a dog successfully finds “the hide,” his confidence builds up for the next search. Many dogs learn that sticking their heads inside of a box with flaps that move is very rewarding. Eventually, dogs become confident enough to stick both feet in the box to hold it in place while enjoying the hidden treats.
Moreover, dogs learn that previously scary things are no longer scary, and they feel confident encountering new challenges. Each and every time a dog overcomes fear and anxiety during a Nose Work session, it brings me to tears.
Gives Dogs Choices
Nose Work is about choices. Dogs choose to search boxes, choose the direction and area to start hunting, choose which box to look into, and choose how to move around the room to find treats. Of course, pet owners are present, but they’re just holding their dogs’ leashes. Pet owners have no clue where the food is hidden, so they learn to trust their dogs to choose the path to the food-filled box.
This nose sport is all about the dog, and pet owners sit back and watch their dogs succeed. Choices are very empowering for dogs—even more so than treats sometimes. Additionally, choices are essential for learning and building confidence.
Watching your dog search and problem solve is exhilarating! All dogs are different, and each dog has his or her individual style of searching through an area. Some dogs work fast while others take their time and search every box.
Regardless of the dog’s searching style, all dogs are successful and pet owners become completely amazed at their dogs’ scenting skills. Many pet owners assume luck was involved when their dogs find hidden treats at first. They think it’s a magic trick between the dogs and themselves by the following week. After a few more searches, pet owners realize their dogs’ noses are pure magic.
Soon family members stand along the wall with a video camera, and Nose Work video footage is shared at the next family function. Watching dogs hunt is awe-inspiring, and every dog can do it. It’s an amazing bonding experience for both dog and pet owner.
Find a Nose Work Class Near You
Nose Work is fun wrapped inside of a box. There’s neither obedience nor pressure involved. You’ll need lots of super yummy treats, a six-foot cotton or nylon leash, a body harness, and your dog. Find Nose Work classes in your area at National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW) and reach out to the instructor for class dates. Most Nose Work classes require crates because each dog searches alone with no other dogs around. This is a fantastic sport for dog reactive dogs because they learn fun things happen with other dogs far away. Tell your Nose Work instructor that Fanna sent you, and have an absolute blast!